A turbocharger, or turbo (colloquialism), from the Greek “τύρβη” (mixing/spinning) is a forced induction device used to allow more power to be produced for an engine of a given size. A turbocharged engine can be more powerful and efficient than a naturally aspirated engine because the turbine forces more air, and proportionately more fuel, into the combustion chamber than atmospheric pressure alone.

Turbochargers in the World of Refrigerated Transport

Turbochargers are one of the most important inventions in the world of engine efficiency. Invented in the early 20th century, turbochargers were first used in ships, before being fitted for trains and, eventually, cars and trucks. In Europe, turbo diesel cars, with turbocharged diesel-powered engines, make up over 50% of new vehicle registrations. This article explores the importance and benefits of turbochargers, and why having a turbo engine is good for refrigerated transport.

How it Works

A turbocharger greatly improves an engine’s horsepower, without the need to increase its weight. Turbos compress the airflow into the engine, allowing more air to enter the cylinder. The exhaust flow from the engine is used to spin a turbine at speeds of up to 150,000rpm (for light or medium size vehicles), 30 times faster than the average car engine. The turbine spins an air pump. With more air, more fuel can be added, creating more power than before. This significantly increases the power-to-weight ratio for an engine, which is advantageous for trucks that carry large loads, such as the refrigeration systems and perishable goods hauled around by refrigerator trucks.

Diesel vs. Gasoline

Turbochargers have been in development almost exclusively for diesel engines. While research is being done on gasoline-powered engines, diesel engines are where one can fully reap the benefits of this invention. Normal diesel engines produce less power than gasoline engines, while requiring stronger and heavier components. This results in the low power-to-weight ratio diesel engines are known for. Turbochargers can increase the power-to-weight ratio of diesel engines to match that of equivalent gasoline engines. For larger vehicles, diesel engines operate between 500-3000 rpm, giving the turbocharger room to improve efficiency.


Turbochargers have been developed to fit all classes of vehicles. This means that one can find turbochargers for all types of diesel trucks used in refrigerated transport, from cooling vans to fully insulated heavy duty trucks. Turbo diesels offer a wide range of benefits. They can be designed to improve either torque or power, depending on what the vehicle is to be used for. Fuel efficiency is greatly improved, reducing the amount of money truck owners spend on fuel. With the turbochargers, more power is produced, with reductions in noise and vibrations, as the turbocharger itself acts as a silencer. Cummins, Detroit, CAT, Scania and Volvo all produce turbocharged engines for heavy duty trucks, while GMC, Ford, Nissan, and Cummings are leading producers of diesel engines for light to medium duty pickup trucks. These pickup trucks produce significantly more power, and are more fuel efficient than their gasoline counterparts. They can be customised as cooling vans for transporting perishable goods over short to medium distances.

At Glacier Vehicles, we understand the need to minimise the costs of logistics in your refrigerated transport business. This is why we can provide refrigerated trucks according to your exact specifications. Consult us to determine the type of refrigerated transport that works best for you, whether you want to add it to your fleet, or as a new business.

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